I started my professional career as a Young Professional of CAPART, a scheme bit similar to the present, where post graduates in Rural Management, Social Work, Agriculture etc. from various institutions from all over India were recruited for a 2-3 years term, oriented and were given different postings during the period in both government and non-government organisations throughout India for their learning and exposure on various aspects of rural development and on the way of functioning of different organisations. After completion of my YP tenure, I was working with Orissa Rural Development and Marketing Society (ORMAS), an autonomous body under P.R. Department Govt. of Odisha, mainly facilitating marketing of rural products thereby ensuring sustainable livelihood for rural producers.
While working with both the organisations it has been learnt that given the flexibility and freedom a person can contribute more in the field than in case of structured environment. This was the major reason for opting for PMRDF. The other thing which attracted the most was the two months orientation training provided by the TISS, Mumbai which has not only helped to enrich the present knowledge base both theoretically and practically but has also helped to develop certain skills for working more efficiently in the field. Besides, the place of posting under the scheme in IAP districts, mostly hilly terrains and tribal dominated, was another point of attraction.
After my orientation at TISS, Mumbai I got my posting in Nuapada district, one of the tribal dominated and backward districts in western part of Odisha, in September 2012 along another PMRDF. Immediately after our posting, we got the opportunity to be involved in the Gram Sabha Sasaktikaran Abhiyan (GSSK), an initiative by the Panchayati Raj Department, Govt. of Odisha for strengthening the Palli Sabhas and Gram Sabhas. We played our role in capacity building of district and field level functionaries for conducting the process, coordination with line departments and civil society organisations for better information dissemination, mobilising local cultural groups for awareness generation & mass mobilisation and on the day, monitoring the proceedings of the Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha as nodal officers. The result was that Palli Sabhas and Gram Sabhas were successfully held in almost all the GPs of the district including the most difficult hill pockets dominated by LWE. The major learning while being involved in the process was that ‘given the opportunity and information, people would come to the Palli Sabhas and Gram Sabhas, however the major challenge is to mobilise these gathered mass for a fruitful discussion for development of their area’.
At present, I am involved in the process for successful implementation of MGNREGS in the district. Under the scheme during 2012-13, we had given major focus on land development. In convergence with the field functionaries of District Watershed Mission we were able to hold PIMs in most of the villages and collect more that 8,000 application forms for land development from FRA beneficiaries, persons belonging to SC & ST community and small and marginal farmers, of which around 5,000 land development works has already been taken up. The other major focus is on convergence with different line departments for plantation under MGNREGS.
Like most of the districts of Western Odisha, Nuapada is also prone to distress and seasonal migration. Every year between October and June, a large number of people migrate to southern states mainly to work in brick kilns, which brings health hazards to the family members, loss of education of children and some time leads to bondage also. At present we are conducting a survey in coordination with civil society organisations to identify the migration prone villages and households of the district so that an action plan can be formulated for timely and proper implementation of MGNREGS, NRLM and other schemes to reduce the present trend of migration.
Gouri Sankar Mishra is based at Nuapada in Odisha. He has an MA in Rural Development from Visva- Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal. He has worked on livelihoods promotion, skill development, HR and administration for more than five years before joining PMRDF.